The very first episode, and an introduction – Simon Parkin

by Patrick Stafford

Simon-Parkin

With so many gaming podcasts available online, it becomes almost ludicrous to suggest you should even listen to another one. Most of what could be discussed has already been covered. What’s the point?

This is why I don’t think my podcast is for everyone. This is not meant to be a mainstream discussion of whatever games are on the market right now, or what we’re playing and why. There isn’t even going to be a different theme to every episode.

This podcast is meant for people who enjoy the growing form of games journalism. If you’re not interested in that topic, you’re going to find the following discussions incredibly boring.

Before I get into a little more detail, I should say I’m not out to step into the “games journalism is broken” debate. It’s discussed enough elsewhere and I won’t be adding anything new to the conversation. Rather, what I can offer is something else – a discussion of craft.

There are very few professionally trained journalists working in the field of games right now. While I wouldn’t say that background necessarily makes you a better writer, it certainly gives you an insight into the types of ethics and professional situations a games journalist wouldn’t even encounter through a fraction of their career.

When you’re trained as a journalist, you’re trained to cover all situations equally. If you’re only part of the games journalism scene, then you’ll view “journalism” through a very small scope. That narrow view often results in ethical quandaries or just plain bad writing.

The best games writers, however, tend to have a very wide background in writing about other topics. Maybe not professionally, but they are interesting people who are interested in all sorts of things. Many have studied other topics and then bring their professional experience to games, or perhaps they practiced as a journalist for several years in a mainstream outlet before heading to games full-time.

If games journalism is going to improve as a medium, then that improvement begins with the journalists themselves. Perfecting your grammar can only go so far. Instead, you need to look at the veterans. The people who have a broad experience across a range of topics and influences. A writer like Brian Crecente at Polygon is a good example – he brings a wealth of experience from his time as a crime reporter. You see that come out in the way his website approaches news.

This is the type of experience we need. We need mentors who can show games journalists how things are done. Games journalism may be broken, but we can’t put it back together ourselves. We need masters of the craft to show us how.

A writing teacher once told me you can’t expect to write a screenplay without reading the classics in the genre you’re writing. A romance? Look to Annie Hall, Casablanca, etc. Or an action film – take your lessons from Die Hard. Read the Lord of the Rings before you even think about starting a fantasy story.

You can’t be a good games journalist if you’re not learning from those who already are.

This is why I made this podcast. To learn from those at the top of our craft. And so aspiring journalists can listen them and learn a thing or two.

The people I will be speaking to through the Crafting Podcast are those journalists who are seen to be at the top of the field. Those who have experience in a wide range of industries and backgrounds, and those whose writing and investigatory abilities are second to none.

They have written key pieces of writing that define the games journalism form, or consistently show themselves to be prudent and talented writers and investigators. Their ethics are not called into question – they do not shame themselves or their craft. They are those from whom we should all strive to emulate.

We’ll talk about their education, their background, their history, and most of all, their craft. How they improve. Who do they read? What techniques do they use to better their writing?

And we won’t talk about games.

The people I will speak in this podcast may not always be always working in the games space, but they will offer exciting and interesting commentary. I’ve decided not to include bloggers in this series of podcasts, purely because I want to look at the professional space. That’s not to say I won’t have some unpaid bloggers on eventually, but for now I’m going to restrict the discussion to those who actually have jobs writing and investigating stories about games

Hopefully that’s enough of an introduction.

Enough rambling, let’s get on with it. My first guest is someone who will be well known to anyone interested in writing about games – the charming Simon Parkin.

Simon and I chatted for an hour about his background and education, and delved into some great topics including how to improve as a writer without stealing ideas, and the dreaded conversation of having to work for free.

Simon and I spoke about a month ago, so he’s been very patient in waiting for me to put this up, which I apologise for!

Below the audio link here, you’ll see some links. Every new podcast I plan to put up links to the articles mentioned in the discussion, and here you’ll find some classic pieces of writing anyone interested in games journalism should be aware of.

Also, I find it prudent that Simon and I mentioned the outcry of his Uncharted 3 review last year – the same controversy has happened again with his review of Halo 4. But that’s a topic for another time!

SOME DISCLAIMERS

I’m very sorry about the audio quality. Most of the time, it’s fine, but every so often it dips in and out. The problems of using Skype. I’m unfortunately very new at this and still figuring it all out, so please, be gentle! I’m confident the next episode will be fine.

Enough rambling. Please enjoy, and feel free to leave feedback or suggestions for interviewees! I promise some great ones are coming up!

Direct download here.

Links:

Simon’s work: The Boy Who Stole Half Life, Death by Gaming

End Game, by Jason Schwartz

New Games Journalism by Kieron Gillen 

Also, please feel free to visit my portfolio website to check out some of my other work! 

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